Sometimes, I imagine people praying with their hands. Building expectations and wishes and questions into brick and mortar and stone.
There’s something about great loss that makes us want to build something—we build war memorials and monuments and churches that symbolize what we’ve lost. Maybe there’s something about stacking bricks and pouring concrete and carving wood that makes us feel like we’re doing something when life seems meaningless. When we’re faced with a void, we fill the empty space with something tangible.
Some of these great cathedrals I’ve seen this summer took over two hundred years to build. Two hundred years that could have been spent building stone houses and barns and garden sheds and many much more practical buildings, but instead, generations of builders spent two hundred years making elaborate stone carvings and piecing together thousands of pieces of stained glass. Two hundred years of work to build a place that is more than ordinary.
I know that God is everywhere—in grassy fields and ghettos and skyscrapers and living rooms—but to me, he seems to dwell even more in these sacred spaces. Perhaps it’s because we go to these places to look for him. There’s something about beauty that connects us to the divine. I think this desire to seek after something greater than ourselves is the essential difference between necessity and art.
Even without bricks and stone and stained glass, I’ve always had my own sacred places where I go to look for God. I look for him among the dense trees along my favorite walking trail and in the three stars you can see from my back yard after dark and under my favorite quilt in my reading corner.
I need room for the sacred in my life—moments set apart from the ordinary. Even more so now, as I’ve left everything familiar behind. I’m feeling the strain as I have to start from the ground up, creating space in my life for God to appear. But I know that when we build sacred places (literally, and figuratively), he will fill them. When we take the time to create something beautiful in place of something ordinary, something unexplainable can happen.
Where are your sacred places?
(And if anyone knows about any particularly wonderful spots in Xela, Guatemala, I’m taking suggestions.)
Here is my playlist for this week–no particular theme, but just some songs that have been on my mind lately.